Amy Gledhill: The Girl Before The Girl You Marry ****
Monkey Barrel Comedy (Carnivore 2) (Venue 180), until 28 August
When relationships tend to unfold and end in the same manner, it’s a pattern. Yet when that pattern persists, well, it’s the stuff of Fringe comedy shows. And from successive break-ups, Amy Gledhill of The Delightful Sausage double act has contrived a candid but upbeat debut solo show, silly in execution yet mature in the hard-won lessons she’s learned. The Hull-born comic has come to see herself as a “human property developer”, fixing up men and improving them, before they then shack up with someone new and get married soon after. And although Gledhill characterises her natural audience as “the bullied” and evokes great sympathy for the story of how she came to dance and embarrass herself before the Queen as a teenager, she’s not a jilted victim. She owns and makes considerable lightness of even her most humiliating episodes.
Her narrative is suffused with tenderness, even for the cad who promised himself to her then almost immediately pledged himself to another out of social awkwardness, Gledhill has had enough water flow under the bridge to be charmingly magnanimous and offer up her anecdotes with wry detachment and a twinkle in her eye. Certainly – overlooking her wardrobe malfunction before the monarch – she doesn’t seem to have retained any lingering trauma that she can’t recast as an endearingly relatable cautionary tale.
Almost in spite of her girlish vivacity and baseline niceness, she finds herself the victorious protagonist in a vengeance subplot. And Gledhill has her happy ending, but satisfyingly focuses less on the lovey-dovey than the stupidity of her and her current beau, united in struggling through the misadventure of a date gone horribly awry. Jay Richardson
Myra DuBois’ A Problem Shared ****
Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 302), until 28 August
Those familiar with the wonderfully waspish Myra DuBois will know that she has great empathy and compassion for herself and little, if any, for anyone else. That’s what makes the notion of this copper-bottomed drag sensation doing an advice show such a treat: Myra, frankly, couldn’t care less.
At a time when the influence of US drag culture is felt strongly across the cabaret scene, DuBois is something of a standard-bearer for the British tradition. Her fabulously leopard-printed look owes more to Coronation Street and panto than ballroom or Instagram, and her act is rooted in a rich comic persona and razor-sharp audience engagement, honed in boozers. She’s truly in her element swatting away heckles or blithely skewering perceived shortcomings in her crowd. (“Unfold your arms,” she barks at one point, “were you not hugged as a child?”) The opening section of the show revels in this kind of interaction, which walks a masterful line between insult and complicity and turns on a dime from bared teeth to bonhomie, with the occasional pointed political barb lobbed in for good measure.
There’s much more going on in the show, though. DuBois has supposedly been taking on board the teachings of a dodgy self-help guru and promises to cure all our ills through such techniques as projectile mindfulness: “That’s when you tell other people what’s wrong with them.” She’s installed in a mock-up of her London flat, where her hapless sister Rose helps her field problems submitted by audience members and a different guest each night. The whole thing rattles along at a formidable pace, punctuated by a characteristically strident tune or two. Whether it will solve every problem in your life is questionable but you’d be well advised to go see. Ben Walters
Sid Singh: Illegally Funny ***
Cabaret Voltaire (Venue 338), until 28 August
Sid Singh (who identifies as “brown”) has had a pretty packed pandemic. He got to help beat Donald Trump in a human rights case, he has moved to live in the UK, he has been dumped and he is doing rather well on Romania’s Got Talent. It is good that he has had so much going on, because he is one high-speed, high-octane comic and he gets through the laughs faster than the Carolina Reaper chili pepper through a sensitive digestive tract.
Singh has persuasive (he is a lawyer, remember) views on why lefties lose and how the crux of the political divide is really about electorates preferring the evil to the terminally annoying. Singh also has thoughts on recycling, racism and why Elon Musk is not a genius. Singh’s Dad was, he tells us, a genius. Which might help explain his confession that he has a real thing for smart woman and a wonderful way of describing the various types, according to their specific academic qualifications. Neuroscientists will be particularly delighted. Of course, immigration features here, alongside how stupidity (specifically of the US kind) can seem to soften the edge of racism, as well as a seriously clever introduction to gaslighting in English cuisine. Kate Copstick
Sarah Keyworth: Lost Boy ****
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), until 28 August
Sarah Keyworth has a lovely dry understated wit, which she uses to dissect language, relationships and human behaviour. Since comedy shut down and re-opened she has experienced a broken heart, then mended it again. She’s taken up therapy, although she retains a refreshingly doubtful view about the process. Keyworth takes us through the day-to-day realities of her life with neat and beautifully constructed stories, which lead to big unexpected bursts of laughter. Her stories are short on detail, strong on logic and her deliberately low-key delivery and super precise timing gives her comedy a smooth unruffled certainty.
Her girlfriend’s peculiar way with a metaphor and her therapist’s way of ending sessions become a running joke, which Keyworth exploits to full effect. Like almost every other comic on the Fringe this August, Keyworth has been diagnosed with ADHD – but at least she manages to write a truly funny joke about it. She’s not one for displays of her own suffering. She’s here to make us laugh and she does. So far, so enjoyable. But, there is a hidden emotional charge in her narrative which gradually reveals itself. The title of her show has a double meaning. Keyworth is so assured, upbeat and confident on stage you don’t realise the threads of all her stories have a common emotional connection. But once you see it you can’t unsee it.
Here is a story of loss and friendship that will steal your heart away. Keyworth has created this show out of love and it is impossible not to be deeply moved. She’s crafted the show the way she has for a very particular reason and she has a final twist which brings the audience to its feet, makes us laugh, whoop and roar with delight. Claire Smith